Every problem has a simple solution

It is so nice to see a clear thinking, unbridled, military effectively solving their nation’s problems.

Take Uganda for example:

“We are almost signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Miss Uganda Foundation because we want to choose the next Miss Uganda basing on agriculture and this is intended to interest the young people into the sector,” Gen Saleh said.

So……..

Despite the entire history of development being predicated on getting people OUT of agriculture, the Uganda army wants them in?

And they are going to do it by commandeering the Miss Uganda contest?

And basing it on agriculture?

Are they going to have the contestants milk cows in bikinis? And then red-blooded Ugandan males will all be thinking, “wow, I gotta get me a farm!”?

What’s amazing is that this plan is actually better than President for Life Museveni’s plan which is to,

“deploy soldiers in every constituency across the country to take agriculture to a new level.”

Holy Spumoli

Hat tip to Justin Sandefur.

 

Priorities, priorities

I’m not a Bulgaria expert, but of all the things the Bulgarian government should try harder to do, preventing graffiti on old Soviet monuments should not be one of them.

bulgaria

 

The Moscow Time reports that “Russia is demanding that Bulgaria try harder to prevent vandalism of Soviet monuments, after a monument to Soviet troops in Sofia was spray-painted last year. Grafitti artists transformed the soldiers in the monument into popular superheroes and cartoon characters, including Superman, The Joker, Santa Claus and Ronald McDonald.”

The only thing I can think to say is: “way to go graffiti artists–that is a huge improvement!”

h/t @ThePoke

 

How not to flip your classroom

Over at inside higher ed, Rob Weir reports,

Last spring, my best friend decided to flip his introduction to computer science class. He posted reading assignments and an online quiz on Friday, closed the quiz at 10:59 on Monday, and walked into his 11 a.m. class that day and introduced higher-level material based upon what students were supposed to have mastered. Some students did really well, some had tried taking the quiz without careful reading, and some simply didn’t get what the text was telling them. One could take a hardball approach and say that those who tried to skip the reading got what they deserved and the clueless were in the wrong class. Insofar as my friend was concerned, though, flipping flopped.

People, this is a big fail. The guy is throwing away valuable information and is not really trying to help his students learn. In fact, he’s kind of being a dick.

How about this? Post some short videos, instead of long reading assignments, have the online quiz due well before the next class, check the quiz to see what students are having problems with, start the next class by with a mini presentation on the problematic stuff, try some peer instruction on that material, give a mini presentation on some higher level stuff and follow that with peer instruction too!

In Rob’s, example, flipping didn’t flop, the lazy-ass professor flopped.

Flipping is not “you go read the basics and then I’ll lecture all class period on advanced material”.

Flipping is “you get prepared before class, and then we will do problem solving during the class period.”

Flipping does not excuse the professor from the responsibility of making sure the students understand and master the basic material. Flipping does not put a wall between the online and in-person components of the class.

It is actually much harder to run a flipped class well than to go the old “sage on the stage” route that Rob enjoys so much.

But I will say this, if you aren’t going to put the work in, please don’t “flip” your class.

Note: this is cross-posted at Kids Prefer Cheese as well.

To boldly go where no economist has gone before

Economists tend to write relatively dry, but succinct abstracts. José Gabriel Palma, a professor at the University of Cambridge, dares to break the mold.  The title of the paper gives you a hint of things to come: Latin America’s social imagination since 1950. From one type of ‘absolute certainties’ to another — with no (far more creative) ‘uncomfortable uncertainties’ in sight.

The abstract is long (the paper itself is 33 pages single spaced!) but definitely worth checking out in full.  I’ve underlined some of my favorite parts:

Latin America is a region whose critical social imagination has stalled, changing from a uniquely prolific period during the 1950s and 1960s — revolving around structuralism, ‘dependency analyses’, Baran and Sweezy’s-type analysis of ‘monopoly capitalism’, French structuralism, the German Historical School, Keynesian and macroeconomics, and the ideas of endogenous intellectuals (such as Mariátegui) — to an intellectually barren one since the 1982 debt crisis and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although this has happened in most of the world, in Latin America both the process of re-legitimisation of capital, and the downswing of the cycle of critical thinking have been particularly pronounced as neo-liberalism has conquered the region, including most of its progressive intelligentsia, just as completely (and just as fiercely) as the Holy Inquisition conquered Spain — transforming critical thinkers into an endangered species.

As pre-1980 critical analytical work had been characterised by an unremitting critique of the economy, once the mainstream left conceded the economy as the fundamental hub of the struggle, there seemed to have been little else left in terms of basic ideological principles to hold onto in a thoughtful way — i.e., it was as if the mainstream left had lost not just some but all its ideological relevance, making it particularly difficult for them to move forward in an innovative way. As a result, in terms of development strategies and economic policies both the traditional and the ‘new-left’ are in one way or another still stuck in the past.

While in some countries the former basically wants to recreate the past, in others the latter seems to be unable to do anything more imaginative than to attempt to create a future which is simply the exact opposite of that past — the main guiding economic policy principle being to transform practically anything that before was considered “virtue” into “vice”, and vice-versa. This narrow ‘reverse-gear’ attitude of the ‘new-left’ has delivered not only a disappointing economic performance (particularly in terms of productivity-growth), but also rather odd political settlements characterised by a combination of an insatiable capitalist elite, a captured and unimaginative progressive political élite (the dominant classes are quite happy to let them govern as long as they do not forget who they are), passive citizens, and a stalled social imagination — a dull mélange that from time to time is sparked off by spontaneous outbursts of students’ discontent. Meanwhile, the world (with its new technological and institutional paradigms) moves on, and Asia forges ahead.

Continuing to chart his own path, Palma also has the longest list of key words that I’ve ever seen, including “Foucault,” which might be a first in economics:

Latin America, Ideology, Critical Thinking, Structuralism, Dependency, Neo- liberalism, Fundamentalism, ‘New-Left’, Top 1%, Keynes, Foucault, Prebisch, Hirschman.

New and interesting working papers

1. Engineers, Innovative Capacity and Development in the Americas by William F. Maloney and Felipe Valencia Caicedo

Using newly collected national and sub-national data and historical case studies, this Using newly collected national and sub-national data and historical case studies, this paper argues that differences in innovative capacity, captured by the density of engineers paper argues that differences in innovative capacity, captured by the density of engineers at the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution, are important to explaining present at the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution, are important to explaining present income differences, and, in particular, the poor performance of Latin America relative income differences, and, in particular, the poor performance of Latin America relative to North America. This remains the case after controlling for literacy, other higher to North America. This remains the case after controlling for literacy, other higher order human capital, such as lawyers, as well as demand side elements that might order human capital, such as lawyers, as well as demand side elements that might be confounded with engineering. The analysis then finds that agglomeration, certain be confounded with engineering. The analysis then finds that agglomeration, certain geographical fundamentals, and extractive institutions such as slavery affect innovative geographical fundamentals, and extractive institutions such as slavery affect innovative capacity. However, a large effect associated with being a Spanish colony remains capacity. However, a large effect associated with being a Spanish colony remains suggesting important inherited factors.

 

2. The Wind of Change: Maritime Technology, Trade and Economic Development by Luigi Pascali

The 1870-1913 period marked the birth of the first era of trade globalization. How did this tremendous increase in trade affect economic development? This work isolates a causality channel by exploiting the fact that the steamship produced an asymmetric change in trade distances among countries. Before the invention of the steamship, trade routes depended on wind patterns. The introduction of the steamship in the shipping industry reduced shipping costs and time in a disproportionate manner across countries and trade routes. Using this source of variation and a completely novel set of data on shipping times, trade, and development that spans the great majority of the world between 1850 and 1900, I find that 1) the adoption of the steamship was the major reason for the first wave of trade globalization, 2) only a small number of countries that were characterized by more inclusive institutions benefited from globalization, and 3) globalization exerted a negative effect on both urbanization rates and economic development in most other countries.

 

3.  Rainfall Risk and Religious Membership in the Late Nineteenth-Century United States by Philipp Ager and Antonio Ciccone

Building on the idea that religious communities provide mutual insurance against some idiosyncratic risks, we argue that religious membership is more valuable in societies ex- posed to greater common risk. In our empirical analysis we exploit rainfall risk as a source of common economic risk in the nineteenth-century United States and show that religious communities were larger in counties where they faced greater rainfall risk. The link between rainfall risk and the size of religious communities is stronger in counties that were more agricultural, that had lower population densities, or that were exposed to greater rainfall risk during the growing season.